Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
To be quite honest, I wouldn’t have picked this book up if it hadn’t been on my university reading list. Which really would have been a shame, but I think every book nerd can relate to the overwhelming sense of never being able to read all the fabulous books being published. But that’s another story. I’m so glad university forced me to read Uglies, because I really think I may have found a series I might actually finish. Although, you never know with my incredibly lazy reading habits…
One of the reasons I wouldn’t have been inclined to read Uglies is the dystopian nature of the story. When I started blogging, I read a couple of dystopian books which left a bad taste in my mouth and turned me away from the genre as a whole. Plus, I really am a contemporary girl at heart. But I was intrigued by the premise Westerfield presents: a world where people have an operation to fit the mould of perfect, living in isolated communities based on their pretty status until then. My only gripe (and this may be resolved in later books) is that I would love to learn more about how children grow up in this world, away from their parents.
I found this futuristic world fascinating, along with the question of how status changes when we take away appearance comparisons which seem to carry so much weight in society. In that regard I was reminded of Only Ever Yours, where women are created purely as pleasure for men. One of my favourite aspects of Uglies was when Tally explored an abandoned ‘Rusty’ town, which points to how contemporary society faced its downfall. This outsider’s perspective of our society really gave me pause for thought. There are so many things we do, so many ways we pollute the earth and our minds, which are just baffling when you stop and think about it. While I loved this element, I am very keen to learn more about the new Pretty world in future novels.
Tally was an interesting character and I found the moral dilemmas she faced quite interesting: on the one hand she was threatened with losing the operation which would help her fit into a new society, on the other she started to love a community where fitting in means standing out. Of course, in realising the ugly truth behind beauty, Tally must also deal with internal conflicts about revealing her true reason for journeying to rogue community, The Smoke. I would have liked to have seen a little more from Tally about coming to terms with the truth which has been hidden from her for so long. A revelation of this magnitude completely shatters her worldview and I’m keen to see how she evolves through the rest of the series.
Uglies left me with so many questions about the world Tally inhabits that I’m sure my curiosity will overwhelm by laziness when it comes to series. Seriously though, I don’t understand how this society runs when pretties just party. There’s so much more I want to know just about the background of this world, before we even get to the rest of the plot. I haven’t felt that way about a series for a long time, so massive props to Westerfield for completely hooking me in. In hindsight, Uglies is a book I should have read sooner. Don’t wait as long as I did.